29 January 2004

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast"-Ephesians 2:8,9

Salvation is the gift of God, paid for, not by merit or creature works, but by our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone receives the glory for the salvation of His people. Should the slave complain in that he has been made free by another? We have heard some say they believe salvation is "the gift of God", yet, in the same breath they say the sinner must reach out and take it. They speak of man's responsibility and his free will. Yet, we must ask, "What can a dead person do?  How free are they? How responsible are those in the grave? Are they supposed to pay their taxes, clock in at their jobs or make their beds? Can they reach out and take a gift?" The declaration of this gift is followed by Paul's solemn pronouncement of man left to himself: "Dead in trespasses and in sins." This gift of grace glimmers like a diamond before the black backdrop of man's depravity. If one is dead spiritually, what spiritual gift can they reach out and take? Not of yourselves means that salvation is not of self. The recipient of God's grace is as dead as Lazarus in his tomb. Had Lazarus the need to reach out and take the advice of the Son of God he would have continued to stink in his tomb. Will man help himself out of the tomb on resurrection morning? Such is the language of Paul. We have heard others boast in what they did to receive Christ: "On such and such a day I did such and such for the Lord". Yet, what do we hear? Is it not the creature boasting? I, I, I, should be replaced by Christ, Christ and more Christ! How well Paul knew the sinner as he wrote: "lest any man should boast." Paul did his boasting, a Pharisee of he Pharisees. Surely, they hated Jesus because His teaching stripped the self righteous Pharisee of his works and boasting. Though his fasting, tithing and long prayers were great religious exercises, they could not make the man righteous or pay for one sin. A sepulchre of dead man's bones can perform religious exercises. Man brings himself back under the law in any kind of boasting. If we boast in our faith, what we believe and when we acted upon it, we have shifted the attention from the cross to the sinner and what the sinner has done. This boasting brings us right back under the law which says: "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified". Yes, man is prone to boast. He thinks well of himself. We must shift our focus from what we are doing to what God is doing in and for us. Many think of Christianity as people who do certain things: If I do such and such I am a Christian. Yet, the Christian is a special creation of God. The Christian says and does not to become a Christian, but rather because they ARE Christians. They do not act on their faith to get something from God, but rather because God has done something for them: He has given them faith as a gift to act upon. Our faith is the channel that God has cut into our souls by which we receive, enjoy and worship Jesus. Or, let Paul speak for me, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them". We are created to do good works, we do not do good works to get created! This is grace!  Father, we thank thee for thy Son, Jesus Christ, the only Savior of sinners, of whom we are chief!